Hear straight from our graduates.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about the course was the diversity of the students and the variety of their backgrounds, from fine art and furniture-making to law and nutrition.
Designer, Paul Belford Ltd
Tell us a bit about what you were doing before Shillington and what made you want to change your career?
I originally studied English Literature at Oxford University. Directly before Shillington I was juggling two jobs—doing the marketing for a pub group in Kent and working as an account manager at a London PR agency. I also took on freelance projects as a copywriter and brand strategist. My day-to-day work was varied; marketing, publicity, social media, event planning and menu development. Some of it was exciting and glamourous: I saw Robbie Williams in his underpants, shielded Jamie Oliver from the paparazzi and got paid to taste gin! But the truth is that I spent years feeling confused about what I wanted to do. There’s a lot on my CV because I avoided making decisions about the future. One advantage, though, was that I had the chance to try my hand at lots of different things, including graphic design, art direction and photography. I eventually realised that my passion lay in bringing together images, words and ideas.
I taught myself how to use the Adobe suite and began applying my new skills, taking on freelance commissions for local businesses. Though I’m still apologising to the printers who had to work with me, I became more confident and gained focus. Finally, in 2017, I decided to take the leap and pursue graphic design full-time. I handed in my notice, borrowed a hefty loan from the bank and enrolled at Shillington. This felt like a gamble—at nearly 30, I was signing up for more debt and uncertainty while my friends were all advancing in their careers, buying their first homes and getting dogs.
I worried, a lot—that I wouldn’t be any good at graphic design, that I wouldn’t enjoy it after all, that I wouldn’t find a job. I enjoyed the work I was doing, I was valued by my employers and I had opportunities for further promotion. It was hard to leave, but I wanted more creative fulfilment from my career and I knew that I needed to challenge myself. I am so glad I did.
How would you describe your experience studying at Shillington? Any stand-out moments you’d like to share?
Shillington was exactly what I was looking for, allowing me to retrain without going back to university. I already had basic software skills, but the course filled in the gaps while developing my eye and creative problem-solving abilities. The teachers were fantastic and I am still amazed by how they teach so much in such a short time. Each brief was designed to test us to our absolute limits, and the pace was judged to perfection. From day one, when we were given a box of pipe cleaners to facilitate a bonding exercise, I felt excited and happy to be at Shillington. The atmosphere encouraged creativity while also being structured and supportive. I won’t pretend it was all a dream. Though I knew the term would be intense, I didn’t anticipate what an emotional rollercoaster it would be. There were moments of self-doubt and frustration. I cried twice in the toilet, a lot more at home and threw my laptop at the wall one weekend. But I’d do it all over again in a shot.